Can the Debt Crisis Lead to Impeachment?

July 4th, 2011 at 12:00 am David Frum | 71 Comments |

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The debt-ceiling crisis is growing into an impending constitutional crisis.

Imagine this scenario:

* House Republicans and the president fail to reach a budget agreement.

* House Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling before August 2, July 22, or whenever the real moment of crisis is.

* The federal government runs out of cash to pay its bills.

* Rather than default on obligations, the president announces his opinion that the debt limit is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment, an argument increasingly heard this past week. He orders the Secretary of the Treasury to continue borrowing anyway.

* Now what?


Obviously there will be financial consequences, because lenders have to worry whether the post-July 22 debt is quite so guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the United States as the pre-July 22 debt.

More serious however are the legal implications.

While the Secretary of the Treasury and the president will rest their borrowing on Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment, House Republicans will have a non-trivial argument that the Secretary of the Treasury and the president are emitting debt not only in violation of statute law, but in violation of Congress’ supreme authority over public finances.

With the markets bucking and rearing, and the real economy suddenly convulsed, does this not create a crisis atmosphere in which some House Republicans will begin to talk about the impeachment of an allegedly lawless and unconstitutional president?

If we want to avoid that outcome – and I have to believe we all do! – wouldn’t the best idea for now be: just lift the debt ceiling to give all parties more time to work out their differences?

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71 Comments so far ↓

  • bujin

    I believe there are some who would jump at the opportunity to impeach the president…. or to make the markets tank in order to reap political rewards.

  • Raise the Ceiling – Rob Fahrni

    [...] David Frum: “…wouldn’t the best idea for now be: just lift the debt ceiling to give all parties more time to work out their differences?” [...]

  • politicalfan

    The numbers do not add up Frum. Congress is not doing well (public opinion). If the President continues to go out it will not be a good thing. They need to find a compromise. That being said, the Congress will lose if they continue to claim that the President is the big bad wolf. He has been beyond calm.
    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/mood_of_america/congressional_performance

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/141017/Low-Approval-Congress-Points-High-Seat-Change-Nov.aspx

    What matters is what Independents think?

  • Mayson Lancaster

    An impeachment would be insane, but the Congressional Republican caucus has shown a powerful enough tendency toward partisan insanity that I wouldn’t bet against one.

  • medinnus

    In order for them to call him to trial for an impeachment, they’d have to show he’d violated the law.

    The 14th Amendment, as part of the Constitution, trumps any law Congress might pass. They would need both branches of Congress to file suit against the White House; else they would not have standing, and the SCOTUS would confirm – as it has before – that the 14th Amendment trumps Congress.

  • New Orleans

    Given that the Fourteenth Amendment AMENDS the Constitution, does that not mean that Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment OVERRIDES any prior statement in the Constitution regarding Congress’s supreme authority over public finances?

    Just wondering.

    • zephae

      Not exactly. It doesn’t directly contradict any prior statement, and thus the two are taken in concert and interpreted together. But even if Obama lost that argument, I don’t think you could win (could probably wage) an impeachment trial. The language is both vague and potentially damning on the subject of the debt ceiling, and since there would likely still be significant economic damage, the idea that the President would’ve been acting against his obligations to the American people, the Constitution, and the oath of office would seem patently ridiculous.

      • ram6968

        as per bartlett, our debt is now global..and as such, a matter of national security so the constitution(14th amendment) supercedes statutory law (debt ceiling)

    • politicalfan

      If Congress is in charge of the purse strings. Can they renege on our debt? Checks and balances are put into place so that no one has too much power. I would imagine that Congress has their limits? I think they will reach an agreement and this is a lot of theatre during a time of (economic fragility?). This is obviouslygive me what I want for my vote time.

      Futhermore, if the President uses the Fourteenth Amendment argument, we should be asking ourselves many questions. 1. If our Congress doesn’t pay our debts, what are the ramifications to our USA credibility? If you or I don’t pay our debts, what happens to our credit ratings? 2. Should our “credibility” matter and how many times was the debt raised during previous administrations?

      Quote
      “Section Four was the response; its language is extraordinary. First, it does not simply say that the national debt must be paid; it says that its “validity … shall not be questioned.”

      “From this language, it’s not hard to argue that the Constitution places both payments on the debt and payments owed to groups like Social Security recipients–pensioners, that is–above the vagaries of Congressional politics. These debts have to be paid, the argument would be, in full, on time, without question. If Congress won’t pay them, then the executive must.”
      End Quotes see
      http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/05/our-national-debt-shall-not-be-questioned-the-constitution-says/238269/

      If the Congress does not pay our debts does the Executive branch have the authority to pay them? Seems plausible or like a winning argument. If you or I don’t pay our loans, does our co-signer/spouse get a call? Wonder what the Supreme Court would say?
      I don’t think Congress can be the irresponsible spouse!

      • jnail

        If the Congress does not pay our debts does the Executive branch have the authority to pay them?

        I think the issue is larger than that. If Congress refuses to fulfill the obligations it has created Constitutionally the President must or isn’t he in violation of both his oath of office as well as his requirement to uphold and apply the laws that Congress passes?

        All the debt comes from laws passed. Budgets are laws.

        I think failure to act is a larger impeachable offense than the contention that he has overstepped his bounds w/ the 14th.

    • ram6968

      PERRY V. UNITED STATES, 294 U. S. 330 (1935)

      The government­’s contention thus raises a question of far greater importance than the particular claim of the plaintiff. On that reasoning, if the terms of the government­’s bond as to the standard of payment can be repudiated­, it inevitably follows that the obligation as to the amount to be paid may also be repudiated­. The contention necessaril­y imports that the Congress can disregard the obligation­s of the government at its discretion­, and that, when the government borrows money, the credit of the United States is an illusory pledge…

      The Constituti­on gives to the Congress the power to borrow money on the credit of the United States, an unqualifie­d power, a power vital to the government­, upon which in an extremity its very life may depend. The binding quality of the promise of the United States is of the essence of the credit which is so pledged. Having this power to authorize the issue of definite obligation­s for the payment of money borrowed, the Congress has not been vested with authority to alter or destroy those obligation­s.

  • chephren

    Sorry Frum, but the case you suggest for impeachment – the “non-trivial argument that the Secretary of the Treasury and the president are emitting debt not only in violation of statute law, but in violation of Congress’ supreme authority over public finances” – is absurd. It is oxymoronic.

    Let’s get real here – the $14 Trillion in existing debt, and much of the ongoing borrowing of the government, comes from spending commitments previously approved by Congress. How on earth is it possible to argue that the increase in the debt resulting from these same Congressional commitments violates Congress’s budgetary prerogatives?!? This makes no sense.

    Consider this example: Medicare Part D, also known as the Seniors Drug Benefit, was approved by the Republican-majority House and Senate in 2003. The entire cost of the program (which, incredibly, forbids the government to solicit competitive bids for drugs) is borrowed – and is projected by the CBO to rise at an ever-increasing rate over time as the price of drugs and the average age of the population rise. In regard to this program, it goes without saying that Congress committed itself to ever-increasing costs – every cent of which, again, will have to be borrowed – in coming decades.

    Perhaps it is time to ask all those Republicans in Congress who voted for ever-higher spending during the Bush years, and repeatedly approved higher debt limits, how it is possible for them to refuse to pay now for what they already voted to spend.

    Why are these born-again, so-called ‘fiscal conservatives’ such a bunch of fiscal morons?

    • GaryD

      I agree. The spending has already been approved by Congress and the President. All the borrowing does it ensure that the will of the Congress is carried out. NOT to borrow is thwarting the will of Congress!

  • ProfNickD

    An official (President, Vice-President, or federal judge) need not have engaged in literally criminal activities to be subject to impeachment — the Constitution only makes mention of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Impeachment isn’t a a criminal trial but a political trial.

    Which means, in reality, anything Congress wants.

    • chephren

      “Impeachment isn’t a a criminal trial but a political trial.

      Which means, in reality, anything Congress wants.”

      Which means, “Burn the Witch!”

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yp_l5ntikaU

    • medinnus

      Correct in that it is not a conviction, but rather, a call to trial.

      Obama should be impeached for covering up war crimes of the Bush administration.

      Bush should have been impeached for authorizing torture.

      Calling a President to an impeachment trial when no crime has occurred is very politically damaging, which means once more Boehner has to do stupid things to statify the idiot Tea Baggers.

  • pnumi2

    A Republican House voting articles of impeachment against a Democratic President twice in 15 years.

    The problem would be finding a dumpster big enough for America to fit in.

  • New Orleans

    The one thing that strikes me as clear is that impeachment would be a political act, and the House Republicans can vote articles of impeachment any time they damn well please. But there’s no way the Democratic Senate is going to vote a conviction. Meanwhile, Obama’s poll numbers would go through the roof, just as they did for Clinton, giving Obama and Democrats a landslide in 2012.

    In other words, any talk of impeachment is a joke. Obama is free to ignore the debt limit, if he chooses.

  • ottovbvs

    Presumably this is DF’s July 4 Joke contribution.

  • sparse

    i’m not a constitutional scholar, but here’s what i find for the text of the amendment (emphasis added):

    Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
    Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

    so, by my reading, whatever solemnity this amendment imbues to our debt, it also delegtes to congress the right and responsibility to manage it. not the president.

    • jnail

      Sparse – here is the contradiction to your last idea. Once committed by law the Congress cannot “alter or destroy those obligations”.

      PERRY V. UNITED STATES, 294 U. S. 330 (1935)

      [q]The government’s contention thus raises a question of far greater importance than the particular claim of the plaintiff. On that reasoning, if the terms of the government’s bond as to the standard of payment can be repudiated, it inevitably follows that the obligation as to the amount to be paid may also be repudiated. The contention necessarily imports that the Congress can disregard the obligations of the government at its discretion, and that, when the government borrows money, the credit of the United States is an illusory pledge…

      The Constitution gives to the Congress the power to borrow money on the credit of the United States, an unqualified power, a power vital to the government, upon which in an extremity its very life may depend. The binding quality of the promise of the United States is of the essence of the credit which is so pledged. Having this power to authorize the issue of definite obligations for the payment of money borrowed, the Congress has not been vested with authority to alter or destroy those obligations.[/q]

  • TerryF98

    The house GOP has turned into a terror organization, with the Senate GOP close behind.

    In effect as Shummer said last week, they are now holding the country to ransom for political ends. If the Democrats did this the “liberal” media would create a shit storm. Remember how anti American liberals were for questioning the Iraq war. A war that with the other Bush war represents 3.7 trillion of the debt the GOP wishes to default over!

    • Chris Balsz

      It’s a queer kind of ransom, when the “terrorist” holds the door open, and the “hostage” refuses to leave until he gets his terms.

      Let’s be clear: If the House votes the money, but it isn’t what Schumer likes, he’ll kill the funding. And that will leave the USA in default. So the “terrorism” is about proposing full funding that Schumer will destroy. Schumer’s obstructionist destruction of funding = good; Republican commitment to funding = “terrorism”.

  • Houndentenor

    David, only if Republicans are that hell-bent on Destroying what’s left of our economy.

  • CentristNYer

    Only if W. can be retroactively impeached for leading us into an economic meltdown of historic proportions.

    • Nanotek

      exactly … and W’s gop congressional collaborators are the same ones now huffing and puffing about the debt they created being out of whack … like lighting a fire and then demanding to be the fire fighters

  • Nanotek

    myself, I would love to see the gopers try … the middle class has just about had their fill of wild-eyed conservatives

  • indy

    Happy birthday, America. Some of us are still sweet on you, political warts and all. Pass the potato salad, please.

  • jnail

    First Happy Independence Day one and all! David’s point is more I think do we need another political distraction that damages the nation. The answer is no, bit the crisis and a few weeks to solve it remains.

    If I understand this the Constitution trumps any other law like the debt ceiling.

    The debt ceiling raise is needed not for new spending but that that has been already authorized by Congress, ie by law and thus the President has 2 duties:
    1) Uphold all laws that have been passed
    2) The debt has already been committed to over many years so it is valid and “shall not be questioned.

    That makes using the 14th a no brainer.

    The Presidential oath also requires the President to protect and defend the Constitution. If he does not follow it as laid out above one could argue you could impeach him as well.

    In fact all members of Congress took a similar oath so their inaction to provide the debt ceiling action needed to fund the laws passed by them could be deemed a violation of their oath of office subjecting Boehner in particular to impeachment. Right?

    The other issue here is that failure to protect the nation’s financial system from a meltdown is akin to “war” and the President again is bound to protect the nation as well. Keeping the nation from falling into a deeper recession, higher borrowing costs, higher deficits due to a double dip and the world losing faith in the US as a reserve currency makes his inaction on the 14th impeachable to me.

    Failure to act has been estimated to cost the US $50B minimum directly for even a few day default due to increased debt rollover costs and as much as a trillion over a decade not to mention higher borrowing costs for consumers and business as well.

    The President has put forth $2T in cuts and asked for $400B in tax loopholes being closed. Every deficit reduction plan that Reagan, Bush I and Clinton did required a combination. Why can’t the Repubs simply negotiate in good faith and get this done?

    If they do not they will get hung out to dry by the President being forced to act under his Constitutional duty. That surely isn’t going to help them defeat Obama. It might just sew up his re-election before they even have a primary.

    If they think he isn’t tough enough to do this. Just remember the Sunday nite we found about Osama or the Somali pirates that were taken out right after he took office.

    If he needs to he will act and get the job done as he should, no doubt about it. If the lowly rated Republicans want to impeach go ahead. The argument of the President fulfilling his Constitutional duty, saving us from default and the cost to the economy an the citizens of that directly, not to mention another recession would make the R’s look even dumber.

    Here is the definitive SCOTUS cite. Pretty clear what has to be done.

    PERRY V. UNITED STATES, 294 U. S. 330 (1935)

    [q]The government’s contention thus raises a question of far greater importance than the particular claim of the plaintiff. On that reasoning, if the terms of the government’s bond as to the standard of payment can be repudiated, it inevitably follows that the obligation as to the amount to be paid may also be repudiated. The contention necessarily imports that the Congress can disregard the obligations of the government at its discretion, and that, when the government borrows money, the credit of the United States is an illusory pledge…

    The Constitution gives to the Congress the power to borrow money on the credit of the United States, an unqualified power, a power vital to the government, upon which in an extremity its very life may depend. The binding quality of the promise of the United States is of the essence of the credit which is so pledged. Having this power to authorize the issue of definite obligations for the payment of money borrowed, the Congress has not been vested with authority to alter or destroy those obligations.[/q]

  • balconesfault

    A great OpEd in the Washington Post yesterday … with this perfect exchange with Grover Norquist:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/how-grover-norquist-hypnotized-the-gop/2011/06/30/AGYOUlsH_story.html

    One person interrupted, as I recall, and said, “C’mon, Grover, surely one day a Democrat will win the White House.”

    Norquist immediately replied: “We will make it so that a Democrat cannot govern as a Democrat.”

    That – along with quotes from Boehner and McConnell – is all America needs to know.

    The current fight over the debt ceiling has nothing to do with the budget or debt. It is all about making Obama fail.

    If America wants to keep handing over power to lunatics who believe ruining our economy is preferential to allowing an opposing party President to be successful, then America will do to itself what the British, the Confederacy, the Japanese, and Bin Laden were never able to do – attack and destroy our nation.

  • jnail

    BTW – you have noticed not a single Republican has come out and said this route is not Constitutional.

    Cornyn – a former TX Supreme Court justice – said it was “Crazy” and that they needed to work together to solve the problem.

    Obama has also said “everything needs to be on the table” and I do not think now that has gone on that he meant only budget and tax items.

    He is playing this VERY smart. The R’s know that not acting may work with their base but the country in general will hold them accountable and the President will be the big winner if he has to fulfill his Constitutional duty to support the laws and obligations Congress is refusing to.

  • Graychin

    It’s a silly question. ANYTHING can lead to impeachment of a president – especially THIS president, given the malicious insanity of the Republicans in both houses of Congress. Can’t you remember the Clinton impeachment? It wasn’t that long ago.

    All it would take to start the ball rolling would be House leadership sufficiently full of themselves. (Is Boehner as full of himself as Gingrich was? Probably.) The majority party would fall in line like good robots and vote to impeach – unanimously. All Democrats would vote against impeachment – unanimously. Onward to the Senate trial.

    The Senate trial would be a fiasco like the Clinton Senate trial. Republicans would vote to remove Obama from office. Democrats would vote the other way. Republicans would fall far short of the 67 votes required for removal. They wouldn’t even muster a simple majority – only enough to continue to filibuster everything in sight and make it impossible for Obama to govern effectively.

    The latter is the better electoral strategy, if you’re a Republican. That’s exactly what they’ve been doing, and will continue to do. How does one negotiate with them?

  • ConnerMcMaub

    The consensus is Boehner would make a deal if he could. The scenario to hope for is the Speaker gets as many GOP votes as he can, and Steny Hoyer delivers the rest. If you could get a majority of democratic votes, you wouldn’t need many Republicans. This scenario might cost Boehner his job so he may not like it. How many thousands of points it the NYSE going to plunge if this happens? President Obama was right when he said his past participation in the bipartisan tradition of the minority party voting against raising the debt limit was needlessly partisan and potentially dangerous.

  • jnail

    I am going to approach this Constitutional debate from another angle. That President Obama would risk impeachment by NOT acting under the 14th Amendment to prevent default.

    Whether any of us like it or not it this debt ceiling debate is all about the “obligations” that Congress over time has signed into law, not the bonds.

    The ceiling raise has nothing to do with future spending, only that which has already been committed to by this and prior sessions of Congress over out history.

    We elected them, they act via their Constitutional responsibility passes laws/funding programs, we own it and has the “full faith and credit” of the US behind it. These are all laws that then need to be upheld, ie honored.

    The Constitution is by definition the original document plus any and all Amendments to it so trying to separate the two is a specious argument as well.

    In PERRY V. UNITED STATES, 294 U. S. 330 (1935)SCOTUS addreses the larger context of debt as “obligations” that further supports the notion that default would be unconstitutional and thus stopping it would be required of the President:

    “…The government’s contention thus raises a question of far greater importance than the particular claim of the plaintiff. On that reasoning, if the terms of the government’s bond as to the standard of payment can be repudiated, it inevitably follows that the obligation as to the amount to be paid may also be repudiated. The contention necessarily imports that the Congress can disregard the obligations of the government at its discretion, and that, when the government borrows money, the credit of the United States is an illusory pledge.

    We do not so read the Constitution….To say that the Congress may withdraw or ignore that pledge is to assume that the Constitution contemplates a vain promise; a pledge having no other sanction than the pleasure and convenience of the pledgor. This Court has given no sanction to such a conception of the obligations of our government.

    The Fourteenth Amendment, in its fourth section, explicitly declares: ‘The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, * * * shall not be questioned.’ While this provision was undoubtedly inspired by the desire to put beyond question the obligations of the government issued during the Civil War, its language indicates a broader connotation. We regard it as confirmatory of a fundamental principle which applies as well to the government bonds in question, and to others duly authorized by the Congress, as to those issued before the amendment was adopted. Nor can we perceive any reason for not considering the expression ‘the validity of the public debt’ as embracing whatever concerns the integrity of the public obligations.”

    The office of the President as “Chief Executive” is empowered by the Constitution that “he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed”.

    He is also Constitutionally bound by his oath of office:

    “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

    This creates a slippery slope for any President. In other words he has no choice in acting per the Constitution lest he violate his oath and for that could be subject to impeachment.

    A secondary argument, slightly less compelling, is that in his job as Commander in Chief to protect the nation against any threats could be cited here. A default that plunges the nation into another recession and costs the taxpayers hundreds of billions in additional Federal interest payments and billions more in higher credit card, mortgage and consumer loans threatens the nation as much as any war or attack does. Not acting would weaken the nation considerably and his failure to protect the nation from this sort of “attack” would also be seen as a failure to fulfill his oath.

    So the 14th/PERRY V. UNITED STATES makes it clear on the debt’s validity and the fact that it cannot be abrogated in anyway that diminishes the full faith and credit of the nation and its trust with any one owed money via a statute approved by Congress, be it your mom on SS, a cleaning contractor for a federal building or foreign nations holding bonds. All are equally valid and must be honored.

    So no action by Congress is illegal and the Debt Ceiling law in any dispute is trumped by the Constitution. In “Perry” Chief Justice Hughes wrote the majority opinion: “We do not so read the Constitution…the Congress has not been vested with authority to alter or destroy those obligations.”

    Altering those obligations means that the terms of meeting them cannot be changed in anyway so even a default of a few days or a program to pay bills in some order with revenues is not allowed. So inaction that allows any sort of modification is out of the question as well.

    If Obama does not act to avert the crisis if negotiations fail that is a more compelling reason to Impeach than trying to claim that he exceeds his Constitutional power in resolving the crisis using the 14th.

    • Chris Balsz

      [blockquote]The Congress as the instrumentality of sovereignty is endowed with certain powers to be exerted on behalf of the people in the manner and with the effect the Constitution ordains. The Congress cannot invoke the sovereign power of the people to override their will as thus declared. The powers conferred upon the Congress are harmonious. The Constitution gives to the Congress the power to borrow money on the credit of the United States, an unqualified power, a power vital to the government, upon which in an extremity its very life may depend. The binding quality of the promise of the United States is of the essence of the credit which is so pledged. Having this power to authorize the issue of definite obligations for the payment of money borrowed, the Congress has not been vested with authority to alter or destroy those obligations. The fact that the United States may not be sued without its consent is a matter of procedure which does not affect the legal and binding character of its contracts. While the Congress is under no duty to provide remedies through the courts, the contractual obligation still exists, and, despite infirmities of procedure, remains binding upon the conscience of the sovereign.

      The Fourteenth Amendment, in its fourth section, explicitly declares: ‘The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law , … shall not be questioned.’ While this provision was undoubtedly inspired by the desire to put beyond question the obligations of the government issued during the Civil War, its language indicates a broader connotation. We regard it as confirmatory of a fundamental principle which applies as well to the government bonds in question, and to others duly authorized by the Congress, as to those issued before the amendment was adopted. Nor can we perceive any reason for not considering the expression ‘the validity of the public debt’ as embracing whatever concerns the integrity of the public obligations.”[/blockquote]

      Whatever the President borrows beyond that amount duly authorized by Congress, is not the valid public debt of the United States that must be repaid.

  • pnumi2

    If Obama does not act to avert the crisis if negotiations fail that is a more compelling reason to Impeach

    Yet Machiavelli would tell us not to appease them at all, but to let the Republicans cause a default and incur the hatred of America. “Let the engineer be hoist with his owne petar.”

    And then we can destroy this nest of snakes for all time.

    Yes, it would cause some discomfort for some of us for a while. But isn’t it for the greater good of America to be rid of this miscreant party for all time?

  • rbottoms

    I’d like to see you try.

  • jerseyboy

    This is a very bad scenario that must be avoided. That being said, I don’t see how more time to negotiate is going to help. The parties have had plenty of time already. The key issue is not more time, it is whether the Dems are prepared to accept serious spending cuts, and whether the Republicans are prepared to accept tax increases. Should not be hard to find a deal in there.

  • rbottoms

    The Republicans don’t want a deal. They want a shutdown. They believe, erroneously that Obama is weak and will cave. In fact the president will take it all the way to the wire and simoly authroize the money if he has to. You asshats want to try impeachment, you just go for it.

  • Danny_K

    The second politically-driven impeachment of a Democratic President in 20 years wouldn’t be good news for the country, but it wouldn’t be a disaster either. A bunch of right wing House Republicans would get a chance to play prosecutor, just like last time, the impeachment would die in the Senate, just like last time, and both Democrats and Republicans would fund-raise like crazy.

    • pnumi2

      It wouldn’t be the conviction or acquittal in the Senate that was fatal.

      The fact itself that there were Articles voted in the House and a Trial in the Senate would be enough to sink the Country.

      It out-Neros, Nero ( he who fiddled while Rome burned.)

  • paulw

    Any attempt at impeachment would be impossible for one reason: there is no way the Democrat-led Senate will play along with House Republicans. Oh, the House will begin their impeachment hearings; but if they pass a resolution and the matter goes to the Senate, the Senate is going to bury it and do so in the most embarrassing way possible for the GOP.

    The other problem is that the impeachment would interfere with any legal argument that would obviously head to the courts, because this is a constitutional matter that the courts have to decide if the 14th amendment can be interpreted as allowing debt to continue on regardless of Congress’ power of the purse. The smart play would be to get the courts to decide first and THEN determine if President Obama committed an impeachable offense. Because, what would happen if the House Republicans try to impeach but then the courts come out and say that Obama had the 14th amendment power to do this legally? It would make the House GOP look like partisan witch-hunters.

    Either way, impeachment = bad idea. It makes Obama the victim, especially if Obama raises the debt ceiling in an obvious move to save the global economy (well, to save it from getting far far worse). If you think getting Bin Laden in a body bag helped Obama’s 2012 chances, his being on the right side of Wall Street, most economists, and the majority of Americans who don’t want a repeat of 2007-08 will pretty much be the clincher.

    • ram6968

      my understanding is…there has to be “harm or injury” to take a case to court…just who is harmed or injured by implementation of the 14th amendment??….that’s why the talk of inpeachment…it’s the only recourse

  • ram6968

    procede with caution….any precedent set will pass to the next leader (democrat or republican)…..what would be the future ramifications? ….gotta hate that flying blind crap

  • Emma

    I’m just hoping they wear their best sheets when they vote to impeach Obama.

  • armstp

    Frum,

    You cannot bring impeachment without majority votes in both the House and the Senate. It would go no where.

    Obama has to wake-up and understand this is a bare-knuckle fight with the conservatives and a fight for the very soul of this country. He should just declare the non-vote on the debt ceiling as unconstitutional and go ahead and instruct the Fed to keep paying the country’s debts. Screw the conservatives who have no interest in the well-being of the country. The Dems should have just used the 51 reconciliation vote every single time in the Senate, including from the beginning of the healthcare debate and passed a public option. We know that in a similar situation the GOP would just do this. This is the new reality with attempting to govern in the U.S. Just find and use any means to get it done. All the old traditions and niceties are over. The GOP has made this clear. Conservatives and the GOP will never compromise on anything again and they will never agree with Obama on anything, even if it was once their own idea. This is now all out warfare plain and simple. Just get it done.

    • Traveler51

      Armstp, the house alone does the impeachment. Clinton was impeached. The senate then has the task of ratifying it, which will not happen in a democrat senate. It is sort of like a Grand Jury issuing an indictment and then sending a case to trial.

  • Sinan

    Fuck the conservatives. Fuck them every which way you can. They are like rabid dogs. Fuck them.

  • Nanotek

    I wish Obama would invoke the 14th if the gopers refuse compromise … time for them to have some skin in the game … explain to the nation how a fraction of a increase in interest rates will cost taxpayers $50 billion more in interest payments and lay that at the feet of the gopers … position it well and he’ll succeed with the people in 2012 … the SCOTUS hangs in the balance

    that said, I doubt he’ll do it … so far when he bends and gopers just take a new position to bend him more

  • TJ Parker

    Amen. Obama: don’t negotiate with hostage takers. If they insist that they get everything, make sure they get nothing.

    • pnumi2

      TJ

      No terms but complete and unconditional surrender. No quarter given to the leaders of these weasles.

  • medinnus

    This was a bad issue for the GOP to force a confrontation upon – its all lose/lose for them.

  • seeker656

    It’s time for both sides to come together and have a public negotiating session covered by C-Span. Put both final offers on the table and let the public judge which side is motivated by a concern for the good of the nation.

    There is a general consensus among informed observers and participants that any solution must include spending cuts and tax increases. The proportion of each can be negotiated.

    Let the public have the facts and forget about this impeachment issue which is just another distraction that feeds the media machine.

  • Dazedandconfused

    If Obama ignores the debt limit, it would provide ripe fodder for the talk radio crowd, would it not? “Imperial Presidency must be stopped!!” It isn’t hard to imagine that bringing all the reward they seek. Impeachment? Maybe if he wins. Maybe. Not before.

    • ram6968

      not so much a matter of “imperial” presidency as that “uppity black man”

    • TJ Parker

      Yeah, and the counter-argument will be that the Congress that began by a reading of the Constitution eventually ended up acting contrary to the Constitution – by both enacting a budget and then failing to fund it. And then you’ll hear played, over and over, the “default is not so bad” line recited by Republican after Republican, with a reminder that default is indeed unconstitutional according to the 14th Amendment.

  • Rockerbabe

    What happened, David Frum, run out of headlines? Impeach the President because Congress cannot get its act together? Oh please! This mess isn’t the fault of the President; he only signs off on the deal. The real culprits are the Republicans who just can’t stand the thought of the USA not desending into a 3rd world nation because they do not want to ask the rich or corporate america to pay their fair share of what it cost to live in this country.

  • DFL

    Although using Section 4 of the 14th Amendment is an enormous stretch of the Constitution, the Republicans are finished with impeachment games for the near future. It got them egg on the face the last time.

  • Chris Balsz

    So if Boehner passes his version on a party-line vote, which would fund the federal debt, the Constitution bars the Senate from refusing to approve the funding of the federal debt, and it prevents the President from vetoing funding of the federal debt?

    Didn’t think so.

    • sparse

      what? i find this post confusing.

      it almost sounds as if you are arguing that the 14th amdendment remedy being discussed here, if valid, means that if the house were to pass a budget then it would be unconstitutional for the senate or president to not agree to it. is that true?

      • Chris Balsz

        If the 14th Amendment cannot be construed to reinforce the powers granted to the Congress in Article II, then how can it be construed to create an unwritten unilateral authority in the President to override Article II?

        • sparse

          chris balsz-
          article 1 of the constitution gives congress the power to borrow against the credit of the united states. the 14th amendment obliges them to pay that debt.

          so, if they pass a budget that includes paying interest on the debt, they are doing their job. if they don’t pass a budget (like last fiscal year), the debt service continues automatically (with borrowed money). it is only discretionary spending that is suspended. so when they don’t pass a budget, they are not doing their job, but neither are they in violation of the constitution.

          it is when they refuse to raise the debt ceiling, having already approved the deficit-funded spending that the trouble starts. and the thing is, the 14th amendment does not single out congress or the president. it just happens that in this case it is congress that is threatening to not raise the debt ceiling. so the fact that the president may be considering using the 14th amendment to circumvent congress is situational, not structural.

          or, in an alternate universe, suppose the tables were turned and congress was the one that had voted to raise the debt limit, but the president refused to comply, vetoed the bill and ordered his treasury secretary to default. i would expect congress to ask the supreme court to issue an emergency injunction ordering the executive branch to comply with the constitution.

          the 14th does not give power to the president at the expense of the congress. it conveys a responsibility on all parties to honor the nation’s debt. whichever branch fails in that duty, it is incumbent on the other two branches, having taken oaths to uphold and defend the constitution, to do their utmost to honor the law.

          so, to recap: first, passing a budget does not have that much to do with paying the nation’s debt. so the house passing a party-line budget creates no obligation on the senate or president to comply. second, the fourteenth amendment does not create anything unwritten, unilateral or propose any overriding of the constitution.

        • Chris Balsz

          Since the 14th Amendment doesn’t spell out any procedures for raising money, I think the procedures in the Articles govern, and the Articles don’t give the President any authority to borrow one penny beyond what Congress authorizes.

          “or, in an alternate universe, suppose the tables were turned and congress was the one that had voted to raise the debt limit, but the president refused to comply, vetoed the bill and ordered his treasury secretary to default. i would expect congress to ask the supreme court to issue an emergency injunction ordering the executive branch to comply with the constitution.”

          So if House Republicans pass a party-line extension at the deadline, the Senate can’t vote it down and the President can’t veto it?

          I don’t think the 14th Amendment allows for, or requires, anything but a normal bill to pay the debt passed in the usual manner.

        • sparse

          “Since the 14th Amendment doesn’t spell out any procedures for raising money, I think the procedures in the Articles govern, and the Articles don’t give the President any authority to borrow one penny beyond what Congress authorizes.”

          the fourteenth does not need to spell out procedures. it simply spells out that the government cannot borrow money and refuse to pay it back. the president is not authorized by the fourteenth to borrow money, he is authorized by congress to borrow the money. congress already voted to spend beyond the existing debt limit. that’s the authorization right there.

          “So if House Republicans pass a party-line extension at the deadline, the Senate can’t vote it down and the President can’t veto it?”

          almost. more accurate to say that the house is obliged to pass the extension, as is the senate and president. party-line is irrelevent. having already passed into law a requirement to spend the money, which means to borrow it, they are all now required to extend the debt limit. the fourteenth actually makes the debt-limit moot.

          “I don’t think the 14th Amendment allows for, or requires, anything but a normal bill to pay the debt passed in the usual manner.”

          in a normal world it wouldn’t require anything out of the ordinary. in fact, borrowing and paying debt have become quite routine in american politics. here’s another analogy: the republican position that not raising the debt limit is akin to a kid playing his xbox suddenly declaring that the power button is a valid button he can press just like any other. the 14th does not require any unusual procedures. it just says that defaulting on the debt is like hitting the power button mid-game. it is simply out of bounds and cannot be done.

  • think4yourself

    It didn’t work out so good last time the House attempted to impeach a president. I’m sure Boehner can remember history and how part of that led to being in the minority.

    If he doesn’t control his fellow GOP House Members, I suspect even safe districts might surge Democratic in the next election (like the last Presidental election), when the Dems argue that first the GOP shut down the gov’t, the President kept it open and so the GOP tried to impeach him for keeping the country running. I can’t see independents buying the argument that the GOP tried to save the country by shutting it down & trying to impeach the President – kind of like killing your wife before she is raped.

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    Can Mitch McConnell be recalled?

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